House

An American Ghost Story, Sinister, The Shining — there are a spate of movies about writers seeking solitude in a house, only to find the exact opposite. House is different it in that it throws in a dash of vetsploitation flavor, while employing practical monsters rather than the usual phantasmagoria as the personal demons.

House’s protagonist Roger Cobb should’ve heeded this advice: Don’t go in the house (also the title of a fab pyro-horror).

Where “horror has a new home,” House features that 80s genre staple: the cheesy prologue. Young Rog walks into a bedroom to find his aunt has hanged herself (it’s actually quite an affecting scene, as the old lady is creakily swinging to and fro).

Undeterred, Rog grows up to occupy the house as an adult — a successful trash novelist looking to get serious with a memoirs detailing his experiences in ‘Nam.

These horror people. When will they ever learn? Never rent bad Mojo domiciles, even if they seem like a steal, even in a tight rental / buyers’ market. Nothing good will ever come of it — unless you flip it real quick before you’re sucked into the Nether World.

So, what distinguishes this house, from any other on the market? There’s its foundation, built on a top-notch cast that includes William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, and Kay Lenz. Wendt (Norm from Cheers) is the jovial neighbor who happens by to ask if everything’s alright at the Cobb house (Rog has been dressing in army fatigues and has set up camera equipment to capture a monster lurking in the closet). Moll, the towering bailiff from TV’s Night Court, plays Rog’s Vietnam war buddy who appears in flashback (At 6’8, there’s one infantryman who’d be quite the sitting duck for the Viet Cong).

Ultimately, House is a middling fun, tongue-in-cheek haunted house creature feature. Similar in sensibility to Video Dead, it’s solid if unspectacular sick day viewing.

**3/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of House on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Horror Movie Dictionary: Billhook

Is there a more sinister horror movie weapon in the pantheon of horror movies than the billhook? Many people don’t know what that is (including the authors of this site until very recently). The dictionary definition of a billhook is as follows: “a tool with a sickle-shaped blade with a sharp inner edge, used for pruning or lopping branches or other vegetation.” There’s also the very similar reap-hook (pictured above in the hicksploitation / Pennsylvania Dutch-sploitation Children of the Corn, which we covered on the Really Awful Movies Podcast).

According to the book, A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, it’s close in kin to the Malay panga, the Cuban machete, the German forester’s heppe, the Italian roncole…author Bill Laws says “it’s more likely to be found in the hands of a butcher than a gardener.” How true that is, for our purposes here.

Bottom line: they’re scary and deadly. Why? It’s that curved end.

Curved weaponry are almost always more sinister than straight-edge blades in horror films. Case in point: the incredible use of the razor-sharp metal hook by the Berlin coven in the re-imaging of the Argento classic, Suspiria. Mario Bava used one to terrific and terrifying effect in his incredible A Bay of Blood. (In fact, they’re common enough they didn’t even make it into our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

Fiction met fact when in August, 2018, The Independent reported on a film assistant who ran amok in an artists’ commune in North London, wielding a two-foot machine with a bill hook. The accused was reported as saying, “I’m going to cut you. I’m going to burn you. I’m going to kill you.”